Blue skies, a few odd clouds and temperatures rising up to 30 degrees set an almost perfect stage for this weekends first practice session at Paul Ricard in the south of France.
Nicolas Lapierre was the fastest man on track this afternoon in his #21 Dragonspeed Oreca 07, putting a 1.54.234 on the timetable. Second fastest was Enzo Guibbert in the #39 Graff Oreca in 1:54.333, 0.099 seconds behind Lapierre. Nicolas Minassian impressed again in the #22 G-Drive Oreca, ending up third fastest with a 1.54.789. An all French top 3 this afternoon with 3 French drivers and 3 Oreca 07’s on top in their home race.
The Russian youngsters in the #27 SMP Dallara were fourth fastest today with a 1.54.866 set by Matevos Issakyan. The fastest Ligier was the #32 United Autosport of Hugo de Saedeleer who drove a 1.55.061. The #23 Panis-Barthez Ligier and #47 Cetilar Villorba Corse rounded out the top 7 in the LMP2 class.
It’s difficult to compare this mornings times with the ones set last year when the Mistral straight didn’t have the chicane in it, but Lapierre’s time was 5.8 seconds slower than the fastest time in last years first practice session (1.48.475) which was also set by Lapierre.
Alex Kapadia set the quickest time in the LMP3 class, going round the track in 2.03.054 in his #15 RLR MSport Ligier. He was just over a tenth of a second faster than Ross Kaiser in the #6 360 Racing Ligier (2.03.157). The fastest Norma M30 was the #19 M.Racing-YMR of Yann Ehrlacher in 2.03.233. Completing the top 5 in the LMP3 class ware Mikkel Jensen in the #9 AT Racing and Wayne Boyd in the #3 United Autosports.
Duqueine Engineering is racing with both its Norma M30’s for the first time this weekend, the #7 Ligier now also replaced by a brand new Norma.
Ferrari leads the GTE class after today’s session Andrea Bertolini setting a time of 2.05.961 in the #51 Spirit of Race F488 GTE. The Italian is being chased by both Aston Martins; Nicki Thiim just 0.130 seconds behind in the #90 TF Sport and Ross Gunn 0.845 seconds further down.
This morning’s Bronze driver test was lead by Eric Trouillet in the #39 Graff Oreca ahead of Henrik Hedman in the #21 Dragonspeed and Fabian Barthez in the #23 Ligier. Nicholas Schatz was fastest in the #7 Duqueine Norma and Rob Smith was the fastest bronze driver in the #66 JMW Ferrari GTE.
The second free practice session is set for 9h25 tomorrow morning, qualifying in the afternoon, starting at 13h45.
Kristof Vermeulen – Club Arnage.